Best Hearing Aids for People with Tinnitus
For most people dealing with hearing loss, (and a large amount that aren’t), tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is an incredibly bothersome condition. In recent years a number of hearing aids have emerged as successful treatment options for tinnitus. It’s important to note that these devices do not make tinnitus disappear, but for many people, they are able to in effect, desensitize the individual from the annoying sensation of tinnitus and make tinnitus easier to deal with mentally and emotionally. What these products aim to do is produce a calming stimuli which then habituates the brain to focus on that stimuli rather than the tinnitus.
Intro to Tinnitus Therapy and Hearing Aids
The vast majority of people who have hearing loss also have tinnitus. It would make sense then, that hearing aid manufacturers are dedicating significant resources to creating tinnitus therapy features in their hearing aids. Years ago, there were multiple hearing aids on the market which were built specifically for patients with tinnitus, but this is no longer the case. Today, almost all hearing aids incorporate tinnitus therapy, whether they are entry level or advanced hearing aids.
And if you don’t have a hearing loss, don’t fear the words “hearing aids!” Many people without hearing loss purchase hearing aids simply for their tinnitus therapy. All hearing aids with tinnitus therapy can have the microphones turned off if you have normal hearing, so that sounds are not amplified. Just a note, if you do purchase hearing aids just for their tinnitus therapy, don’t purchase advanced hearing aids- there’s no point and it’s not likely that the hearing aids are going to provide $5,000 worth of relief to your tinnitus. Instead, look for discreet entry level RIC hearing aids, which can be found for around $1000/each.
It’s important to note that the goal of tinnitus therapy is not to cure or eliminate tinnitus in any way. Instead, it’s designed to retrain your brain to focus on the therapeutic and relaxing stimuli rather than the tinnitus. For many people, this therapy has life changing benefits and provides a great deal of relaxation, which in turn reduces tinnitus. However, when the hearing aids are removed, the tinnitus will return as it was before. It will not be reduced or exasperated, it will remain unchanged.
Finally, if you do decide to be with with hearing aids for tinnitus therapy, be aware that adjusting to hearing aids takes time. Your hearing provider will walk you through what to expect, and will fine-tune the tinnitus therapy to your hearing loss and preferences as much as possible, but it takes time to retrain your brain to focus on the therapy sounds rather than your tinnitus. Know that tinnitus therapy is not a cure-all, and that there is no particular patient profile which will benefit more from tinnitus therapy than any other. Tinnitus is very subjective, and much of how you perceive tinnitus therapy is going to rely on how much your tinnitus bothers you, as opposed to any specific diagnosis or characteristic of your tinnitus.
My Favorite Tinnitus Therapy Hearing Aid
I’ve fit many hearing aids, both to patients with and without tinnitus. If a patient came to me today with tinnitus, this is the hearing aid I would put them in. It doesn’t mean it will work for everyone, but it’s what I recommend to most of our patients and people seem to like it more than any other model we deal in.
Widex Unique 440 Fusion (link to product)
Widex approaches tinnitus therapy a bit different than other manufacturers. Many hearing aids allow wearers to listen to customizable white noise (sounds like “kssssshhhhhhh”). Widex allows for that, plus they employ what are called “fractal tones” (example), which are random sounds, rather than steady noise such as white noise which some patients will adapt to and begin to think of as just another form of tinnitus. Fractal tones are incredibly relaxing, and this is important, because the vicious cycle of tinnitus usually goes like this – tinnitus causes patients stress, stress causes more tinnitus, which in turn causes more stress. Breaking the cycle with relaxing tones is incredibly helpful.
Widex’s fractal tones can be programmed into a separate memory of the hearing aid, so you can simply change your hearing aid program with the push-button or a remote control to activate the sound therapy. As with all tinnitus therapy hearing aids, these tones can be played with the hearing aid microphones switched either on or off.
The thing I really like about the Widex Unique is that these fractal tones are built into the hearing aid. With other hearing aids, you could certainly listen to fractal tones, but it would require downloading an app for your phone, and then pairing your phone to the hearing aids with a streamer accessory made by the hearing aid manufacturer. This solution costs a couple hundred extra dollars, takes longer to activate, and of course requires that you have your streamer accessory with you at all times. With the Widex Uniques, you simply push a button on the hearing aid and the relief is activated.
The price for the Unique starts at $1249 per hearing aid. If you don’t have a hearing loss and are simply purchasing the Uniques for their tinnitus therapy, we would recommend purchasing the low-end model, Unique 110. You may also look at the Passion model, which is a little more discreet and has all the same technology as the Fusion model pictured above.
If you or a loved one would like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.